Quotulatiousness

May 21, 2015

QotD: Silicon Valley hypocrisies

The point of reviewing these hypocrisies is not to suggest that the rich profit-makers of Silicon Valley are any greedier or more cutthroat than the speculators of Wall Street or the frackers of Texas, but merely that they are judged by quite different standards. Cool — defined by casual dress, hip popular culture, and the loud embrace of green energy, gay marriage, relaxation of drug laws, and other hot-button social issue — means that one can live life as selfishly as he pleases in the concrete by sounding as communitarian as he can in the abstract. Buying jet skis is as crass a self-indulgence as buying an even more expensive all-carbon imported road bike is neat.

If Silicon Valley produced gas and oil, built bulldozers, processed logs, mined bauxite, or grew potatoes, then the administration, academia, Hollywood, and the press would damn its white-male exclusivity, patronization of women, huge material appetites, lack of commitment to racial diversity, concern for ever-greater profits, and seeming indifference to the poor. But they do not, because the denizens of the valley have paid for their indulgences and therefore are free to sin as they please, convinced that their future days in Purgatory can be reduced by a few correct words about Solyndra, Barack Obama, and the war on women.

Practicing cutthroat capitalism while professing cool communitarianism should be a paradox. But in Silicon Valley it is simply smart business. The more money you make, any way you can make it, the more you can find ways of contextualizing it. At first these Silicon Valley contradictions were amusing, then they were grating, and now they are mostly just pathetic.

Victor Davis Hanson, “The Valley of the Shadow: How mansion-dwelling, carbon-spewing cutthroat capitalists can still be politically correct”, National Review, 2014-07-22.

February 9, 2015

QotD: The hyper-rich are not like you and I

Filed under: Environment,Europe,Media,Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Convening to ring the alarm about global warming, our putative betters and would-be rulers gathered in Davos, Switzerland, filling the local general-aviation hangars with some 1,700 private jets. Taking an international commercial flight is one of the most carbon-intensive things the typical person does in his life, but if you’re comparing carbon footprints between your average traveler squeezed into coach on American and Davos Man quaffing Pol Roger in his cashmere-carpeted intercontinental air limousine, you’re talking Smurfette vs. Sasquatch. The Bombardier’s Global 6000 may be a technical marvel, but it still runs on antique plankton juice. The emissions from heating all those sprawling hotel suites in the Alps in winter surely makes baby polar bears weep bitter and copious baby-polar-bear tears.

The stories add up: Jeff Greene brings multiple nannies on his private jet to Davos, and the rest of the guys gathered to talk past each other about the plight of the working man scarf down couture hot-dogs that cost forty bucks. Bill Clinton makes the case for wealth-redistribution while sporting a $60,000 platinum Rolex.

The hypocrisy of our literally (literally, Mr. Vice President!) high-flying crusaders against fossil fuels — who overlap considerably with our high-living crusaders against economic inequality — is endlessly annoying if frequently entertaining. And there is something unseemly about enduring puritanical little homilies on how we need to learn to live with less from guys wearing shoes that cost more than the typical American family earns in a quarter. When that obnoxious Alec Baldwin character from Glengarry Glen Ross informs that sad-sack real-estate salesman that his watch costs more than that guy’s car, he was trying to provoke him into getting richer, to the tune of a Cadillac Eldorado or, if not that, at least the second-prize set of steak knives. But our modern progressive versions of that guy are even more obnoxious: They demand that we lower our expectations while they live lives of opulence that would have embarrassed the Count of Monte Cristo.

Out-obnoxious-ing a guy with Alec Baldwin’s smirking mug takes a lot of brass.

Kevin Williamson, “Davos’s Destructive Elites: ‘None of us is as dumb as all of us'”, National Review, 2015-01-25.

January 10, 2015

QotD: Honour and politics

Filed under: Politics,Quotations,USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It is almost an axiom that no man may make a career in politics in the Republic without stooping to such ignobility: it is as necessary as a loud voice. Now and then, to be sure, a man of sounder self-respect may make a beginning, but he seldom gets very far. Those who survive are nearly all tarred, soon or late, with the same stick. They are men who, at some time or other, have compromised with their honour, either by swallowing their convictions or by whooping for what they believe to be untrue.

H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy, 1926.

January 5, 2015

Morality in public, perversity in private?

Filed under: Media,Politics,Religion,USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In the Washington Post, Nita Farahany looks at an interesting study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The study gives away the game in the title — Do American States with More Religious or Conservative Populations Search More for Sexual Content on Google?

“In America, religiosity and conservatism are generally associated with opposition to non-traditional sexual behavior, but prominent political scandals and recent research suggest a paradoxical private attraction to sexual content on the political and religious right. We examined associations between state level religiosity/conservatism and anonymized interest in searching for sexual content online using Google Trends (which calculates within-state search volumes for search terms). Across two separate years, and controlling for demographic variables, we observed moderate-to-large positive associations between: (1) greater proportions of state-level religiosity and general web searching for sexual content and (2) greater proportions of state level conservatism and image-specific searching for sex. These findings were interpreted in terms of the paradoxical hypothesis that a greater preponderance of right-leaning ideologies is associated with greater preoccupation with sexual content in private Internet activity. Alternative explanations (e.g., that opposition to non-traditional sex in right-leaning states leads liberals to rely on private internet sexual activity) are discussed, as are limitations to inference posed by aggregate data more generally.”

The researchers found that the American states with the greatest proportion of individuals who self-identify as very religious, or consider religion to be an important part of their lives, engage in more active searches for sexual content online compared to states with fewer religious and conservative individuals. There was a direct correlation between the proportion of conservatives in a state and image-specific Internet sex searches documented in that state.

Their conclusion? More restrictive social norms drive behaviors underground. There are quite a few limitations of the study and alternative hypotheses that may drive the results, which the researchers acknowledge. But it’s still quite an interesting study.

September 23, 2014

This is what a genuinely ethical oil divestment plan for universities would look like

Filed under: Environment,Politics,USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:45

Megan McArdle explains why universities are not in a particularly righteous position when they push for divesting out of fossil fuels:

I understand that universities are exploring sustainability. Just the same, they consume huge amounts of fossil fuels: To heat and cool their buildings. To power their labs and computer networks. Maintenance and landscaping. Cooking all that food. Lighting all those rooms. Every year, they put on many large events to which people fly or drive long distances. Their students travel to and from their premises multiple times a year, rarely on foot. Their faculty fly to do research or attend conferences; many of my friends in academics have much better frequent-flier status than I could ever dream of. Their admissions officers fly hither and yon to recruit students. Their teams fly or drive to games. But you get the idea. The point is that the fossil-fuel consumption of every university in the country dwarfs the impact of their investments on climate change.

[…]

If divestment activists were serious about making a difference, setting an example, and drawing the full weight of America’s moral opprobrium onto the makers and consumers of fossil fuels, they’d be pushing a University Agenda that looked more like this:

  1. Require administrators, faculty, sports teams and other student groups to travel exclusively by boat and rail, except for “last mile” journeys.
  2. Cease construction of new buildings on campus.
  3. Stop air conditioning buildings, except for laboratories and archives that require climate control. Keep the heat no higher than 60 degrees in winter.
  4. Put strict caps on power consumption by students, keeping it to enough electricity to power one computer and one study lamp. Remove power outlets from classrooms, except for one at the front for the teacher.
  5. Ban meat from campus eateries and require full-time students to be on a meal plan.
  6. Remove all parking spots from campus.
  7. Stop operating campus shuttles, except for disabled students.
  8. Divest the endowment from fossil-fuel companies, if it makes you feel better.

Why has No. 8 jumped to No. 1? Because it’s easy. Because a group of students pushing endowment divestiture can shut down a public meeting and be rewarded with the opportunity to hold a teach-in; a group of students pushing a faculty flying ban and the end of campus parking would find the powers that be considerably more unfriendly. Not to mention their fellow students. Or, for that matter, their fellow activists, few of whom are actually ready to commit to never in their lives traveling out of America’s pitiful passenger rail network.

May 31, 2014

Shock, horror! Ezra Levant’s publisher took government grants!

Filed under: Business,Cancon,Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:21

In the Globe and Mail, Simon Houpt looks at the rise and rise of Ezra Levant and finishes with what he clearly thinks is a “gotcha” moment:

… for a man who seems to have studied his American forebears so extensively, he has failed utterly to learn how to mimic the persuasive charms of a Bill O’Reilly or the wackadoodle authenticity of a Glenn Beck. He has a genuinely nasty streak that flares up in his attacks – on the Roma people, for example – that have landed him in hot water with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

He seems less interested in free speech than in listening to his own speech. Perhaps fatally, he has no visible sense of humour about himself.

In Groundswell, he has great fun mocking one of his favourite targets: Hollywood stars, whom he accuses of gross hypocrisy for promoting environmental causes while flying around in private jets. He points to Matt Damon’s anti-fracking drama Promised Land, which was backed in part by financing from the United Arab Emirates. And he mocks Josh Fox, the director of the anti-fracking documentaries Gasland and Gasland 2, for being a one-time New York-based actor.

Yet there is more than enough hypocrisy to go around: Levant is a critic of government support whose books have been published by a company that took plenty of government money until a recent change in ownership precluded the practice; a free-marketeer who works for a network that spent months last year trying to convince regulators to let it extract a monthly payment from every TV subscriber in the land.

At one point in Groundswell, Levant suggests activists are primarily driven by the salaries they receive. It’s a worldview that is so breathtakingly cynical that we’re left to wonder if Levant himself would blithely change his position for a fatter paycheque. If true, what kind of free-speech champion is that?

As far as the publisher collecting government money … most of the Canadian publishing business does that. It’s an unusual publishing company that manages to avoid suckling at that particular teat. Sun TV’s campaign for a better placement in cable TV packages certainly didn’t show the company in a good light, but the regulators have deliberately created a two-class system for cable, with the favoured channels required in each cable offering (a subsidy-by-another-name) and the disfavoured ones excluded. Sun TV could have taken the high road, but they’d have gone out of business for no purpose, and it wouldn’t have changed the system at all. (Full disclosure: I don’t watch Sun TV, although I have read a couple of Levant’s books.)

January 8, 2014

Inequality and the American elite

Filed under: Politics,USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:25

Victor Davis Hanson diagnoses what he calls the “Modern Psychological Disorder of Elite Liberalism”:

The result of cosmic disappointment in the ability of progressive politics to correct human disparities has given birth to the modern psychological disorder of elite liberalism, which is mostly about squaring the circle of maintaining privilege while deploring inequality. Say America is unfair ten times a day, and the BMW in the garage and the new putter are no longer sins.

Barack Obama cannot finish a sentence without lamenting unfairness; but he proves to be no Jimmy Carter in scouting out the most exclusive of golf courses, and the richest of fat cats to putt with. Elizabeth Warren talks of oppressed minorities, but then invents a pseudo-Native-American identity to get a leg up on the elite competition in order to land at Harvard. The fact is that the elite who champion the poor and the poor themselves are not the players of the 1930s; the former usually make about the same amount of money and enjoy the same privileges as those they damn, while the latter have access to appurtenances and privileges denied the royalty of old.

The wealthier and more secluded an Oprah, the most desperately she searches for evidence of bias and inequality, finally reduced to the caricature of whining about racially driven poor service over a $38,000 crocodile handbag. If most in California don’t care what people do in their bedrooms, or if gays have on average higher incomes than non-gays, or if gay marriage is now de rigeur, the search for cosmic equality continues at an even brisker pace, resulting in transgendered bathrooms in the public schools (crede mihi: the ten-year-old daughters of the Yahoo elite will not encounter transgendered fifteen-year-old boys in the female Menlo School restrooms).

It is not perverse, but logical that Obamacare architects don’t want Obamacare coverage. It is understandable that Washington young-gun liberals know exactly where DuPont Circle or Georgetown gets iffy. Modern liberalism provides the necessary mental mechanisms to ensure the enjoyment of privilege. Al Gore was the classical liberal of the age, crafting an entire green empire predicated on opposing the very values that he later embraced to become, and preserve staying, very rich.

[…]

It is past time to forge a new populist approach without the theatrics of shutting down the government or playing on the same keyboards as Pajama Boy Obamacare spivs. The liberal elite runs the culture, from universities and entertainment to government bureaucracies and the media, but it nonetheless is predicated on loudly condemning in the abstract the very creed that they embrace in the concrete.

August 21, 2013

The Guardian gets a taste of the medicine it prescribed for the tabloids

In sp!ked, Brendan O’Neill talks about the amazing double standards of Britain’s “chattering classes”:

If there was a Nobel Prize for Double Standards, Britain’s chattering classes would win it every year. This year, following their expressions of spittle-flecked outrage over the detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda by anti-terrorism police at Heathrow airport, they’d have to be given a special Lifetime Achievement Award for Double Standards.

For the newspaper editors, politicians and concerned tweeters now getting het up about the state’s interference in journalistic activity, about what they call the state’s ‘war on journalism’, are the very same people – the very same – who over the past two years cheered the state harassment of tabloid journalists; watched approvingly as tabloid journalists were arrested; turned a blind eye when tabloid journalists’ effects were rifled through by the police; said nothing about the placing of tabloid journalists on limbo-like, profession-destroying bail for months on end; said ‘Well, what do you expect?’ when material garnered by tabloid journalists through illegal methods was confiscated; applauded when tabloid journalists were imprisoned for the apparently terrible crime of listening in on the conversations of our hereditary rulers.

For these cheerleaders of the state’s two-year war on redtop journalism now to gnash their teeth over the state’s poking of its nose into the affairs of the Guardian is extraordinary. It suggests that what they lack in moral consistency they more than make up for with brass neck.

Everything that is now being done to the Guardian has already been done to the tabloid press, a hundred times over, and often at the behest of the Guardian. For all the initial depictions of Mr Miranda as ‘just Glenn Greenwald’s partner’, in fact he was ferrying encrypted information from the NSA leaker Edward Snowden on flights paid for by the Guardian. That is, he was detained and questioned over journalistic material acquired through illegal means. That’s already happened to the tabloids. Over the past two years of post-phone hacking, post-News of the World harassment of tabloid hacks by the state, 104 people have been arrested, questioned, usually put on unjustly elongated bail, and sometimes imprisoned. These include many journalists but also office secretaries and other non-journalist types, like Mr Miranda, who stand accused of handling illegally acquired material. The 104’s crimes include ‘disclosure of confidential information’ – not that dissimilar to what Greenwald and Miranda have done in terms of getting hold of and publishing Snowden’s illegally leaked confidential material. Yet while the redtop writers rot in legal limbo, Mr Miranda becomes a chattering-class cause célèbre.

[…]

But, believe it or not, the double standards run even deeper than that. For today’s outraged defenders of Greenwald, Miranda and the Guardian from a state war on journalism were the architects of the state’s far larger, far more destructive war on tabloid journalism. From the Guardian itself to Labour MP Tom Watson to various influential members of the Twitterati, many of those now shocked to find officials harassing journalists for doing allegedly dodgy things were at the forefront of demanding that officialdom harass redtop hacks for doing dodgy things. If you unleash and cheer a war on journalism by the state, you really cannot be surprised when the warmongers eventually put you and your journalism in the crosshairs, too.

May 15, 2013

Canadians’ hypocrisy on climate change

Filed under: Cancon,Environment,Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Stephen Gordon fired off a tweetstorm yesterday:

April 9, 2013

Surveillance is only good when they do it to us, not vice-versa

Filed under: Government,Media,USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:41

David Sirota on the blatant hypocrisy of Big Brother surveillance fans now objecting when they’re the targets of surveillance:

The Big Brother theory of surveillance goes something like this: pervasive snooping and monitoring shouldn’t frighten innocent people, it should only make lawbreakers nervous because they are the only ones with something to hide. Those who subscribe to this theory additionally argue that the widespread awareness of such surveillance creates a permanent preemptive deterrent to such lawbreaking ever happening in the first place.

I don’t personally agree that this logic is a convincing justification for the American Police State, and when I hear such arguments, I inevitably find myself confused by the contradiction of police-state proponents proposing to curtail freedom in order to protect it. But whether or not you subscribe to the police-state tautology, you have to admit there is more than a bit of hypocrisy at work when those who forward the Big Brother logic simultaneously insist such logic shouldn’t apply to them or the governmental agencies they oversee.

[. . .]

Yet, in now opposing the creation of an independent monitor to surveil, analyze and assess lawbreaking by police and municipal agencies after a wave of complaints about alleged crimes, Bloomberg and Kelly are crying foul. Somehow, they argue that their own Big Brother theory about surveillance supposedly stopping current crime and deterring future crime should not apply to municipal officials themselves.

This is where an Orwellian definition of “safety” comes in, for that’s at the heart of the Bloomberg/Kelly argument about oversight. Bloomberg insists that following other cities that have successfully created independent monitors “would be disastrous for public safety” in New York City. Likewise, the New York Daily News reports that “Kelly blasted the plan as a threat to public safety,” alleging that “another layer of so-called supervision or monitoring can ultimately make this city less safe.”

If this pabulum sounds familiar, that’s because you’ve been hearing this tired cliché ad nauseam since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Whether pushed by proponents of the Patriot Act, supporters of warrantless wiretapping, or backers of other laws that reduce governmental accountability, the idea is that any oversight of the state’s security apparatus undermines that apparatus’ ability to keep us safe because such oversight supposedly causes dangerous second-guessing. In “24″ terms, the theory is that oversight will make Jack Bauer overthink or hesitate during a crisis that requires split-second decisions — and hence, security will be compromised.

February 25, 2013

Western media suddenly notices problems in South Africa

Filed under: Africa,Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:33

In the Telegraph, Brendan O’Neill shows how the western media has managed to ignore horrific things in South Africa, but suddenly the murder of a pretty white woman has them all utterly rivetted to what’s happening in that country:

Last year, 34 black striking miners were gunned down by South African police at the Lonmin mine in Marikana. Some were shot in the back as they attempted to flee. Some were killed as they surrendered. Others were killed 300 metres from where the main massacre took place, suggesting they had been chased — that is, hunted down — by the armed servants of the ANC. Yet there was no outrage in the Western liberal press. There were no fuming leaders; very few angry columns. Amnesty International, guardian of the modern liberal conscience, issued a weak, almost uninterested statement about this act of mass murder, and then went back to throwing money and staff at the campaign to have Pussy Riot — prettier and way more fashionable than those dead miners — freed from jail in Russia.

This month, a pretty white woman, Reeva Steenkamp, was killed by her boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, in a gated community in South Africa. And this time, right-thinking observers went crazy. The shock and outrage have been palpable. Feminists have popularised the Twitter hashtag #hernamewasReevaSteenkamp, to draw attention to the scourge of domestic violence in South Africa. Column after column tells us that the Steenkamp killing shows that the New South Africa is sick, that it’s a fear-ruled, crime-ridden, corrupt nation. This tragic shooting and the fractured court case and debate it has given rise to have cast a “lurid light” on South Africa, commentators tell us, calling into question its image as a “Rainbow Nation”. Where the massacre of 34 black workers elicited a collective shrug of the shoulder among observers over here, the killing of Steenkamp has got them tearing their hair out, demanding answers, wondering what the hell went wrong with the country they once admired (the New South Africa) and its ruling party that they once cheered (the ANC).

All of which raises a very awkward question: why is the shooting of a white woman in a domestic setting more shocking to liberal commentators than the massacre of 34 black miners at a public strike and demonstration? This isn’t a complaint about how the media elevates celebrity news over all other forms of news. I can understand why there is so much media and public interest in the Pistorius/Steenkamp case: it isn’t every day a global sports star shoots his famous, beautiful girlfriend in questionable circumstances. But what is striking is the fact that it took this incident — and not, say, the ANC’s massacre of 34 miners — to open Western liberals’ eyes to the profound problems, the moral and political decay, in modern-day South Africa.

February 17, 2013

Whinnygate is just a useful distraction from the real scandal in the NHS

The British media is doing a great job of distracting the public with the horsemeat story, and the politicians and National Health Service bureaucrats are delighted that nobody is paying attention to the real scandal:

At any given moment, there exists at least one delicate subject that all mainstream political parties would much rather not discuss. For many years the abuse of MPs’ expenses fell into this category. After this was exposed by a Telegraph investigation, everyone joined a tacit agreement to keep quiet about the criminality inside the Murdoch newspaper empire.

Now the subject which nobody wants to talk about is the National Health Service. It is just over a week since the publication of the Francis report into Stafford hospital, where some 1,200 patients died in appalling circumstances. Had any other institution been involved in a scandal on this scale, the consequences would have been momentous: sackings, arrests and prosecutions. Had it involved a private hospital, that hospital would have been closed down already, and those in charge publicly shamed and facing jail.

Astonishing to relate, nothing has happened. Politicians have made perfunctory expressions of concern, while agreeing that there must be “no scapegoats”, and that Sir David Nicholson (the senior figure responsible) must remain in his job.

Then, almost at once, the political class turned its attention to a far more lively subject: horse meat. Few “scandals” in living memory have carried less significance. And yet few stories have dominated the press quite as comprehensively since rival teams of crack reporters from The Sun and The Star pursued Blackie the Donkey across Southern Spain in 1987, in the wake of some dubious allegations of mistreatment by his Spanish owners.

Misdirection is a vital tool in the arsenal of the magician — and it can be even more valuable in the political arena. If they can fool you into watching the hand that isn’t hiding the coin, they can get away with a great trick (magicians) … or a great evil (politicians).

February 12, 2013

Rules for the masses, but not for the bureaucratic elite

Filed under: Bureaucracy,Business,Europe,Law — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:33

The European Union’s rules on gender equality appear to apply to everything in the EU except the EU’s own bureaucracy:

Part of the aggrandised myth EU institutions like to propagate about themselves is that they are pioneers in promoting tolerance, gender equality, and diversity in the workplace. Read the promotional literature and you will find effusive descriptions of liberal workplace revolutions and the achievements of Soviet-style five-year plans. Yet, like the Soviet Union, there is an embarrassing mismatch between the trumpeted idealism and the reality.

Since its creation in 1967, DG Employment (Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission) has nominally been responsible for fair employment conditions in the European Union. Rising levels of workplace equality in member states (for which DG Employment take an undue amount of credit) are woefully incongruous with the situation of EU civil servants. Women occupy 19 per cent of senior management positions; compare this with the often decried 35.9 per cent of women in the top levels of the UK civil service.

Yet it is figures like the UK civil service’s that prompt EU proposals on affirmative action. One set of proposals has recently been discussed in the European parliament, for example, which if passed will introduce gratuitous and complicated legislation across the continent. That bureaucracy breeds bureaucracy is unsurprising, but it is hard to take seriously calls for equality from an institution endemically opposed to the concept.

The only European agency where women in management positions outnumber men is in the Institute for Gender Equality (the administration is 95 per cent female). Incontrovertibly, out of all the agencies, this is the one with the strongest prerogative for tackling equality in its workforce. But the message is clear: shout about equality to the world and create a dummy institute to anyone holding a mirror up to the EU bureaucracy itself. So far, the commission is on its fifth ‘action programme’ to tackle inequality within its institutions, taking the same form as every one that has come before it; vague guidelines forgotten until lobby group pressure becomes too annoying.

January 24, 2013

Sun TV’s about-face on “making us all pay for it”

Filed under: Business,Cancon,Government,Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:12

Andrew Coyne makes some good points about Sun TV’s hypocrisy, he could have made a stronger case for getting the CRTC entirely out of the business of deciding what Canadians can watch on TV:

When the Sun News Network first loomed on the national horizon two years ago, before it had even begun broadcasting, sections of the Canadian left reacted as they do to most things: with hysterics.

A petition was launched — from the United States, as it happens — demanding the CRTC deny Sun the licence it sought, claiming “Prime Minister Harper is trying to push American-style hate media onto our airwaves, and make us all pay for it.”

[. . .]

Well, that was then: much has happened since. Teneycke lost his job, briefly, after questions were raised about how the bogus signatures found their way onto the petition. The network has mostly avoided peddling hate, unless you count that business about the Roma. And, less than two years since its launch, Sun is back before the CRTC, asking to be put on basic cable.

Well, asking is not quite the word. The network, never shy about self-promotion, seems almost an infomercial for itself these days. Network personalities have been drafted to explain the urgent public necessity of making Sun mandatory carriage, that is of taxing everyone with cable or satellite service. Viewers are directed to a website, where they can send an email to the CRTC in support of its application.

[. . .]

But if fairness is what we’re after, there’s another way to go about it. Rather than give every channel an equal chance to stick their hands in the public’s pockets — to force viewers to pay for channels they would not pay for willingly — it is to grant that privilege to no one: to leave viewers free to decide whether or not to subscribe to each channel, on its own merits. And yes, in case anyone’s wondering, that includes the CBC. (Notwithstanding the princely $500 a pop the corporation pays me to bloviate on At Issue, I have been rash enough to argue, publicly and often, for defunding the CBC.)

For goodness sake, it is 2013. The circumstances that might once have justified such regulatory micro-managing, in the days when there were only three channels and barely room for more on the dial, are long gone. Then, a new or special-interest channel might have made the case for market failure: since it was impossible for viewers to pay for channels directly, there was a built-in bias to the biggest audience, and the programming that tailored to it.

November 2, 2012

The rise of celebrity endorsements is a sign of political immaturity

Filed under: Media,Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:44

In sp!ked, Patrick West points out that celebrities who push political agendas or social issues are actually a sign of the failure of the political class:

This paradoxical egotism — protesting against ‘selfish’ right-wing people in order to make you appear morally superior — was mercilessly parodied in the 2004 film Team America: World Police. In it, marionettes representing the likes of Susan Sarandon, George Clooney and Matt Damon are shown as self-important dupes of Kim Jong-Il, parroting liberal-left vacuities. ‘As actors’, says Janeane Garofolo’s puppet, ‘it is our reponsibility to read the newspapers, and then say what we read on television like it’s our own opinion’. Like all good parodies, it helped to change the way people think. Sean Penn’s intervention on the matter of the Falkland Islands earlier this year generated unflattering comparisons to the movie, and I imagine Matt Damon still fears to speak on humanitarian issues, lest he be met with a collective cry of ‘Matt Day-Mon’.

Still, this hasn’t deterred the likes of Clooney and Whoopi Goldberg continuing to make known their support for the Democrats — who are liberal-left, and therefore Good People — in opposition to the Republicans, who are right-wing and by extension Bad People. Now from the pop world they have been joined by Katy Perry, who last week performed at a Las Vegas fundraiser for President Obama in the forthcoming presidential election, and by Madonna, who on Saturday declared at a concert in New Orleans: ‘I don’t care who you vote for as long as you vote for Obama.’ Having been met with jeers and booing, the Material Girl backtracked. ‘Seriously, I don’t care who you vote for as long as you take responsibility for the future of your country’, she recanted. ‘Do not take this privilege for granted. Go vote.’ Other Democrat supporters include Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, Will.i.am and Jay-Z.

[. . .]

In terms of hollow egotism, popstars are not far removed from actors. The latter are fantasists and (literally) professional liars, pretending to be someone they aren’t, displaying emotions they don’t have. Popstars are often likewise insecure, craving attention and praise, to be told what good people they are — and consequently ensure that the world knows it.

They have been up to this sort of thing for years. Consider the self-important proclamations of John Lennon, imagining no possessions but having lots of them, Sting’s crusade to save the Brazilian rainforest and its noble savages and, of course, Bono, the humanitarian tax-avoider. The latter two featured in Band Aid, an ostentatiously big-hearted scheme that raised funds for governments in desperate need of more Mercedes-Benzes and Kalashnikovs. This is what happens when you combine paradoxical egotism and a Something Must Be Done mentality. Today, it’s the same toxic compound — intensified — that’s behind the grandstanding and aggressive ‘caring’ censoriousness you see on Twitter.

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